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Fremont artist catching attention

Oakland Tribune, Apr 23, 2007 By Chris De Benedetti

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are no second acts in American lives.

Kamal Al Mansour is proving him wrong.

Al Mansour, who excelled in school at both drawing and his studies, initially chose a more practical career route, eschewing his artistic dreams for a law degree.

But one day more than 20 years later, he "just picked up a pencil again," and rediscovered his true passion. And now Al Mansour, 47, has kick-started a second career as an artist.

In the past four years, he has exhibited his paintings around the state. He garnered acclaim at juried exhibitions in Southern California, capturing second place in the drawing category at a Beverly Hills show. He also won an award at a Brand Library Art Gallery juried exhibit in Glendale, he said.

Al Mansour moved to Fremont in 2005 with his wife, Sharon, and their three sons. He works full time as a consultant at a financial brokerage in San Francisco's financial district, providing for his family and his second career.

"I'm here to finance my creativity," he said.

He currently is one of the featured artists at Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland, where his artwork will be shown until the end of the month.

Some of Al Mansour's pieces are politically charged, dealing with the historical struggles and triumphs of African Americans and American Indians.

Whether the viewer agrees with him or not, Al Mansour's work is done with a social conscience. He considers himself a "visual culturalist."

"It's just art that reflects society," he said. "I attempt to interpret society historically, politically and spiritually."

One piece looks at the homeless. It is called "The Future Still Belongs to Me," where Al Mansour fuses religion with social commentary. He compares the homeless with "Job," the sympathetic Biblical figure who lost everything in a life filled with struggles.

"But (Job) got everything back because of his faith in God," Al Mansour said. "The idea in my piece is you can feel hopeless, but still have hope."

Al Mansour said being considered an Oakland artist is a compliment, given its social history and the number of great artists who have called the city home.

But because he lives in Fremont, works in San Francisco and is from Los Angeles, he is thinking bigger than just the East Bay.

"I consider myself a California artist," he said.

The public response to his artwork has been very positive, gallery owner Joyce Gordon said.

Al Mansour's art captured her eye because it's "neat, creative, clean and different," Gordon said. "He's a new artist that needs to be paid attention to."

Chris De Benedetti covers Fremont issues. Contact him at (510) 353-7002 or cdebenedetti@angnewspapers.com.

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